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Migraines Increase Stroke Risk

The chances of having a brain attack are doubled for those who have the headaches

TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- People who suffer migraines face a greater risk of ischemic stroke, says a study in this week's online issue of the British Medical Journal.

Canadian and American researchers, analyzing 14 previous studies that examined the association between migraine and stroke, found that the risk of ischemic stroke was 2.16 times greater for migraine sufferers compared to people who don't get the severe headaches.

Migraine sufferers who experienced auras (light effects) with their migraines had a slightly higher risk (2.27 times).

Some of the studies indicated that female migraine sufferers who take oral contraceptives are up to eight times more likely to suffer a stroke. However, other studies suggested a smaller risk for these women. This indicates a need for more research in this area.

The researchers suggested that increased stroke risk among people with migraines may be linked to the reduced blood flow to the brain that usually occurs when a migraine strikes.

The study authors said their findings indicated that migraine and stroke may share similar risk factors, a possibility that requires further research. In particular, much more research needs to be done on risk factors for migraine patients who take oral contraceptives, the authors wrote in a prepared statement.

Migraine is the most common form of headache in young adults and affects as many as a quarter of women in their mid- to late 30s.

More information

The National Headache Foundation has more about migraine.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Dec. 13, 2004
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